2020 Honda Civic Review

2020 Honda Civic - Trendsetting Civic adds refinement for 2020 and stays at the top of the compct class.


Honda's compact Civic was first introduced way back in 1972 and was most recently redesigned in 2015. It's offered as a 4-door sedan, 4-door hatchback or 2-door coupe. All models come with 4-cylinder engines and front-wheel drive. For 2020, the Civic gets updated front and rear styling, additional sound insulation and revised transmission gearing on Si models. Civic competitors include the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda 3, Nissan Sentra, Subaru Impreza and Toyota Corolla.

All Civics are available in LX, Sport, EX and Touring trim. Sedan and coupe models are also offered in Si trim. Hatchbacks trade Si trim for racing-themed Type R trim. LX and Sport models get a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 158 horsepower that pairs with either a 6-speed manual or continuously variable (CVT) automatic. EX and Touring get a turbocharged 1.5-liter four with 174 horsepower mated to a CVT automatic. Si models get a 205-horsepower version of the turbo four and a 6-speed manual. Type R models get a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 306 horsepower, 6-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip differential.

Standard on all Civics is the Honda Sensing safety package. It includes adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and keeping, and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking. LX models get 16-inch wheels, 5-inch touch screen and automatic climate control. Sport adds 18-inch wheels, split-folding rear seats, keyless ignition, 7-inch touch screen and Android Auto/Apple Car Play integration. EX adds 17-inch wheels, blind-spot camera, dual-zone climate control and heated front seats. Touring gets the Sport's 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, heated rear seats, navigation and 10-speaker audio system.

Si includes the limited-slip differential from the Type R, sport-tuned suspension with adaptive dampers, larger front brakes, upgraded front bucket seats and unique gauge cluster. Type R models get further brake and suspension enhancements, 20-inch wheels with summer tires, unique interior and exterior styling and a new data logging system called Honda LogR. Prices start as low as $20,650 and climb to more than $36,000 for the Type R. As is the case with all Honda models, there are no factory options.

The Civic's base 2.0-liter engine sets the standard in the class for entry-level refinement and smoothness. Surprisingly, it mates well to the continuously variable automatic, which thankfully, lacks the dull and numbed feel so common to this type of transmission. Power delivery is smooth and linear. Stepping up to the turbocharged 1.5-liter in the EX and above brings a welcome boost in performance while still remaining smooth and tractable throughout the power band. If you are so inclined, the 6-speed manual is a joy to shift and ratchets up the driving enjoyment factor.

From an economy standpoint the Civic has always been a champ and the 2020 is no exception. Most Civic models have combined EPA ratings north of 30 MPG and some as high as 36 MPG. That's impressive given that most will average more than the EPA Combined average. It is worth noting, however, that hi-output turbo motors on the SI and Type R require premium-grade gasoline. In routine suburban commuting, it is easy to average north of 35 MPG in the Touring and close to 40 MPG overall if you throw in some gentle highway cruising. The 12-gallon fuel tank, does limit effective range to about 300 miles per tank, though.

Civic sets the standard in the class for ride and handling balance. Regardless of model, they are fun to drive and only the Si and Type R beat you up on rough roads. Noise isolation could be a bit better, but that's mostly tire thrum as engine noise and wind rush are nicely muted. Si and Type R models have a throaty exhaust note that might not be to everyone taste.

Base models favor comfort over handling prowess, but even the EX is fun to drive into the twisties. Steering is direct and communicative and the brake pedal has great feel, though stopping power in lower trim levels could be better. Body lean is modest and turning circle is quite tidy.

It is important to note that Si and Type R models ride firmly, bordering on harsh. The tradeoff is excellent front-drive handling -- easily the best in the class if not overall. Also, those models come with summer tires that must be swapped out if you plan to drive in the winter.

As with most cars in this class, Civic's interior goes from serviceable to upscale depending on trim level. LX and Sport models get basic plastics and more than a few switch blanks. Stepping up to EX and above brings some soft-touch surfaces as well as additional features. Still, even top-of-the-line Touring models aren't as upscale as Mazda 3. Regardless, wholesale improvements made with the 2015 redesign have created an interior that is vastly more functional, and that's greatly appreciated.

The control design is thankfully basic with a simple instrument cluster that boasts a large digital speedo wrapped by a digital-but-traditional tach. Ancillary gauges fall left and right. The layout is simple and readable day or night. The center stack is dominated by a large touchscreen and with a traditional dial for audio volume. Simple and easy-to-use climate controls fall are placed immediately below the screen. Ancillary controls are well placed and nicely lit at night. Unfortunately, the start button is an awkward reach behind the steering wheel.

Civic supports both Android Auto and Apple Car Play. Also, there's an impressive suite of standard safety features. Too bad blind-spot alert is only offered on EX and up. It's as important as forward-collision warning and is offered as standard equipment in most other cars in the class.

The low-roof design forces some entry-and-exit compromises and the seats are a bit more reclined and confining than in competitors. Front-seat leg room is ample, but headroom is only adequate. The rear seat has low-slung seat bottoms and only modest knee and foot space. If you are looking for a compact car with midsize passenger space, you might consider the Elantra/Forte twins or the new Nissan Sentra.

Outward visibility is good, thanks to thin roof pillars and a large rear window. Honda also offers an innovative lane-change camera that projects an image of your blind spot on the infotainment screen when you activate the turn signal. It can be a bit distracting at first, but after time, you become accustomed to the feature and may find it useful.

Cargo space on sedans comes in at 15 cubic feet, coups at 12 cubic feet. Both numbers are respectable. Hatchbacks offer an impressive 25 cubic feet of cargo room. Unfortunately, split-folding seats are not available in the LX. Even so, cargo space is quite good for the class. Interior storage is good as well, with a couple of large bins in the center console, roomy map pockets and a large glove box.

Bottom Line - For four decades the Civic has set the standard in the compact class. The 2020 model is no different. Some competitors might offer a bit more room or a more comfortable ride, but few can match the Civic's overall balance of room, refinement, reliability and overall affordability.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.